You don’t have to be artistic to be creative

Artistic vs CreativeI am not artistic. I can’t draw inside the lines, my style is jeans and a t-shirt, and I can’t hold a tune to save my life. In my family, my brother got all the artistic chops. He plays a couple different instruments and is a really creative guy. He makes the coolest wood engravings I’ve ever seen. I’m always blown away by his ability to take a blank piece of wood and transform it into a work of art.

Despite my inability to properly match the colors of my daughter’s clothes, I work to constantly develop my creativity. This does not mean that I practice painting, or have taken up piano lessons. I think that creativity can be expressed in a multitude of ways.

The way I define creativity is the ability to question everything and not see limitations. By doing so you can see the world around you as a blank canvas. To draw something on that canvas, you have to know who you are and what it means to express yourself. Continue reading

I believe that you and your team can accomplish anything

Tommy Caldwell Kevin JorgesonIf you have been following the news the last couple of months than you probably heard about the couple of guys who climbed the New Dawn Wall on El Capitan in Yosemite Valley. If not, then click here, here, or here. As a climber, I have been following the Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson story for over five years. I have watched as they have come closer to success each year. I found it very interesting that this particular story resonated with the general public so much. Climbers have been doing really hard and crazy things for a long time now. I have been wondering why people were so drawn to this story. Continue reading

Standardization & the impact it can have on products

bp'sIn the last post we talked about some of the positive and negative impacts that variation can have on your products. In this article we will be looking at the opposite of variation, which is uniformity. Some of the ways product managers can create uniformity is by standardizing on systems, product features, and pricing schemes. There are people who dedicate their lives to mastering the subject of standardization (think six sigma and lean manufacturing). What I hope to express is that just like variation, standardization can be a double edge sword. Continue reading

Variation & the impact it can have on products

I work for a manufacturing company. In my organization we talk a lot about how to create products that are the same each time we make them. Variation is often seen as the enemy in manufacturing. If one worker performs a task in a different way than another worker, the quality of the product can sometimes suffer.

Sunbather_Smurf_Color_VariationsDoes this mean that variation is always a bad thing? No, I don’t believe it is. In my department, variation is often something that helps us sell more of our products. We divide our product into two primary categories. Standard products and custom products. We think about these categories in terms of the 80/20 rule. 80% of what we make are standard products, and the remaining 20% are custom orders. Continue reading

Why you are never too important to get your hands a little dirty

I graduated with a degree in Civil Engineering back in 2006. After working two years for a Civil Engineering firm, I got laid off at the end of 2008 due to the housing crisis.

24026_405492651671_1190499_nSo by the summer of 09’ I was broke, newly married, and desperate for work. Fortunately I landed a dream job working for a company called Ropeworks. The company specializes in rope access which is essentially industrial rock climbing. Using rope techniques developed on the big walls of Yosemite Valley, workers are placed hundreds of feet in the air to perform a wide variety of tasks.

I was fortunate enough to get hired because of my engineering background. The original idea was that I would help the company land more bridge inspection jobs. I did do a few bridge jobs (I even got to inspect the Crescent City Connection in New Orleans), but most of my time was spent doing maintenance work on 300’ tall wind turbines. Which was an awesome gig for an adrenaline junkie like me.

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Creating Training Programs to Scale Up Your Operations

One of the most challenging time periods of new product development is when things start taking off. Customers like the product and the demand begins to sky rocket. Product champions must figure out how to quickly scale up their operations and subsequently their staff. In an ideal world, Human Resources would spear head the hiring and training initiatives and feed the development team product ninjas on a weekly basis. If that is not the world you live in (like me), then you need to be able to develop a training program and deploy it quickly with little or no budget. No problem!

Where to start?

Marketing MaterialMy guess is that if you are finding yourself in this position you have already done a good job marketing and selling your product. The material generated for those efforts can be repurposed to serve as the foundation for your new training program. If the purpose of technical marketing material is to educate potential customers on a product, then that material can serve equally well to educate new team members. Continue reading

Why You Should Impress Your Team

I believe the success of innovative products depend upon the dedicated team driving that product. Because there are so many forces opposing new products entering the market, the development team has to be unified and focused on the goal to succeed. The team has to have a leader they respect and are willing to follow when those opposing forces are bearing down.

TeamThat responsibility can be a lot for a leader. Especially when that person is having to play the corporate political game at the same time. Too often team leaders can focus their energy on impressing executive management instead of impressing the development team. Yet, these are the people who are the engine moving the new product to market. Continue reading

Mapping Work Flows – The Foundation of Continuous Process Improvement

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Mapping your operational processes can be one of the most painful and difficult things to do. It is also one of the most essential and beneficial tasks a product manager can work on. You can’t really set a strategy or create effective systems without having a comprehensive understanding of the way your team gets things done. Continue reading

Simpler is Always Better

SimplicityThis is a rule I strive to live by as a product manager. As I work to improve my product line, I ask myself, “Is this the simplest version of the product that I can create?”

As my team and I create the controls for our product line, we are always asking, “Are these the simplest systems we can create?” We use this question to review all of the product design standards, sales strategies, and manufacturing processes that are in place.

As the demand for our product has grown, our team has naturally had to grow as well. We continually ask ourselves, “Is this the simplest organizational structure possible or are we creating layers of bureaucracy that inhibit us from future growth?” Continue reading

A Few Tools I Use To Resolve Conflicts

In the last post we talked about where product managers run into conflicts and what some of the root causes for those conflicts are. In this post we will take a look at some tools I have found to be useful when working on conflict resolutions.

Leave Your Emotions at the Door

The quickest way to escalate a tense situation is to let your emotions control your actions. So many things can go wrong if you go into a confrontation feeling intense emotions such as embarrassment, anger, or fear.

When I have to have difficult conversations with people who I feel have wronged me, I sometimes have these emotions stirring inside. It is important to keep these feelings from influencing the things I do or say so that I don’t negatively impact my team.

DeathtoStock_Medium9To accomplish this, I will often step outside and focus on my breathing while walking around the building. Continue reading